A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler is the only book on the ToB16 list that I had already read. My friends at the bookstore set aside an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) for me because they know that Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors. I’ve never met an Anne Tyler novel that I didn’t love, and this one was no exception.
Filled with the usual cast of quirky characters, A Spool of Blue Thread spins the stories of three generations of the Whitshank family. Set mostly in present times, the book begins with the four Whitshank children dealing with their aging parents, Red and Abby, who still live in the large, old family home built by their grandfather. Tyler then takes us back to the courtship of Red and Abby, and then the history of Red’s parents, Junior and Linnie Mae. There are some great truths about families in these pages, told only as Tyler can tell them.
I’m always tempted to describe this as an epic family saga, which is probably a bit too heavy of a description, but it is more epic in scope than most of Tyler’s novels which tend to focus on fewer characters and a more limited time period. There is an actual spool of blue thread in the story, but the whole book is written as an unspooling of the Whitshank family story. I loved the construction of it.
Overall, I am a huge evangelist for Anne Tyler. One reason I think I enjoy her work so much is that she often was writing about characters in the same phase of life as I was in. Her earlier stuff deals with young adults, then she moved on to young families, middle-aged adults, and her later novels have been about older adults. Her hallmark is quirky characters and since my favorite reads are almost always strongly character driven, it is easy to see why I enjoy her writing so much.
A Spool of Blue Thread is supposedly her last novel. A very sad thought, but it might propel me to revisit some of her earlier works that I remember fondly: The Accidental Tourist, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and Ladder of Years.
Not infrequently, there is some small detail of a book that sticks with me long after more salient plot points have vanished from my memory banks. Such is the case with an Anne Tyler book that might be The Accidental Tourist, but, quite honestly, might be another book altogether. The main character is dating a woman whose siblings all gather and play a card game called “Flu” that they have made up with rules that evolved over time, including some sort of “vaccinations.” I remember the main character’s total frustration with trying to play along, but I also remember thinking, “Wow, these are my people.” And so, Anne Tyler became one of “my” authors. If you’re my age, I heartily recommend A Spool of Blue Thread, if you’re younger I heartily recommend you pick up SOMETHING by Anne Tyler, even if this one doesn’t sound up your alley.
I’d say that the Rooster skews to more literary stuff, but I’m anxious to hear what everyone at the ToB thinks of this one.